Machine tool orders increased 43.7 percent in December in a sign that capital spending by manufacturers remains firm despite the recession, according to the Association for Manufacturing Technology, a McLean-based trade group.

USAir, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines were granted one-year temporary authority by the Transportation Department to serve routes between the United States and Canada previously held by Eastern Air Lines. USAir will provide service between Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Ottawa.

Microsoft, rebuffing IBM, will offer new versions of the OS/2 operating system that will allow PC users to run the Microsoft Windows graphical interface. Previously, users of IBM OS/2 computers had to run Presentation Manager from IBM if they wanted a graphics-based screen.

Defaults on credit card payments by Americans soared in November, Moody's Investors Service said, as the effect of recession combined with the massive debt hangover from the 1980s.

The European Community is set to make a formal offer to slash subsidies to aircraft manufacturer Airbus Industrie in a bid to defuse a four-year trade dispute with the United States, EC officials said.

Gasoline prices nationwide fell more than 3 cents a gallon in the last two weeks, according to two surveys. The Lundberg Survey put the average price for all grades of gas at $1.3035 a gallon, down 3.08 cents from Jan. 11. The Energy Department said the average price for regular unleaded fell from $1.212 on Jan. 16 to $1.176 as of yesterday.